Life in Balance: Holistic Approaches to Corporate Wellness Initiatives
Reposted from Authority Magazine. Authored by Karen Mangia | Salesforce VP
The pandemic pause brought us to a moment of collective reckoning about what it means to live well and to work well. As a result, employees are sending employers an urgent signal that they are no longer willing to choose one — life or work — at the cost of the other. Working from home brought life literally into our work. And as the world now goes hybrid, employees are drawing firmer boundaries about how much of their work comes into their life. Where does this leave employers? And which perspectives and programs contribute most to progress? In our newest interview series, Working Well: How Companies Are Creating Cultures That Support & Sustain Mental, Emotional, Social, Physical & Financial Wellness, we are talking to successful executives, entrepreneurs, managers, leaders, and thought leaders across all industries to share ideas about how to shift company cultures in light of this new expectation. We’re discovering strategies and steps employers and employees can take together to live well and to work well.
As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Colleen Beers.
Colleen Beers is the Chief Administrative Officer at Alorica, a trusted global leader in next-generation customer experience (CX) solutions. Colleen brings proven experience driving operational excellence and building Alorica’s award-winning culture and employee experience.
Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you better. Tell us about a formative experience that prompted you to change your relationship with work and how work shows up in your life.
Well, I have six kids, so finding a balance between family and work was something I had to learn very quickly. One of the ways I do this, especially since I’ve moved into more demanding, higher positions, is managing my calendar wisely. Whether I’m working a 10-hour day or travelling, there are still family moments I need to schedule. And equally important is blocking off time to think. If you don’t give yourself item to think, you’re going to be exhausted, and the quality of your work, your ability to lead and your mental state will decline. This is why I put separate time blocks for my work, my family and just for me all on the same calendar. Then, at the end of each week, I assess what went well, what didn’t and which areas I need to devote more time the following week.
Harvard Business Review predicts that wellness will become the newest metric employers will use to analyze and to assess their employees’ mental, physical and financial health. How does your organization define wellness, and how does your organization measure wellness?
As an organization, we don’t define wellness as one thing or dictate how it needs to be managed for everyone because it’s different for each employee. And as the environment around us is constantly changing, so is each employee’s idea of what wellness means to them.
That also means the way we measure wellness is constantly changing. We are currently exploring the best way to measure wellness globally so that it evolves with our individual employees. We’re working with a third-party wellness provider to augment our 360-view of our employees. They are helping us identify what types of wellness our employees want from us, where and when we should engage and how to measure success. We are in the initial stages of collecting data and learning from employees through surveys and focus groups.
Through this initial data collection, we have learned the biggest priorities for our employees are flexibility in scheduling and having a voice to express themselves. We have already begun implementing programs where our employees’ needs can be met. Our workforce management team works to create a schedule that meets each individual employee’s needs whether that’s working nights, working from home or only certain days a week. The cornerstone of our DEI program TIDE — Together for Inclusion, Diversity and Equity — is our Real Talk sessions. These employee-led, interactive forums allow Aloricans to come together and discuss social issues that matter most to them and their communities.
Based on your experience or research, how do you correlate and quantify the impact of a well workforce on your organization’s productivity and profitability?
Wellness directly impacts retention. When employees feel supported, they stay with their company. And they don’t just stay; they also perform better while they’re there. Happy employees deliver insanely great customer experiences, which results in happy clients and ultimately increases our bottom line.
One way we measure employee satisfaction frequently is through eNPS (employee net promoter score). We also conduct daily pulse checks to measure employee confidence and well-being. When an employee rates low on either of these, it alerts their manager to check in and determine the best way to support the individual. We believe great leadership and mentorship are key to wellness, and in turn, productivity and profitability.
Even though most leaders have good intentions when it comes to employee wellness, programs that require funding are beholden to business cases like any other initiative. The World Health Organization estimates for every $1 invested into treatment for common mental health disorders, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. That sounds like a great ROI. And, yet many employers struggle to fund wellness programs that seem to come “at the cost of the business.” What advice do you have to offer to other organizations and leaders who feel stuck between intention and impact?
My biggest advice? Don’t get stuck! Take action! But since that is easier said than done, here are a few steps you can follow to help get your wellness program off the ground:
First, ask to pilot a program — start small — and then grow from there. There will still be an initial investment, but it’ll be taking baby steps rather than making a big move.
Next, adapt! Every business, every employee is different. What works for one company may not work for you. As you learn what works best, adapt your program to reflect that.
Finally, prove your ROI. Measure your success and take those numbers from your pilot to leadership and show them just how profitable the program truly is.
As leaders, it’s our responsibility to advocate for your employees and make things happen. It’s also what our higher-ups hired us to do. So, stay curious and persistent and go shatter that status quo!
Speaking of money matters, a recent Gallup study reveals employees of all generations rank wellbeing as one of their top three employer search criteria. How are you incorporating wellness programs into your talent recruitment and hiring processes?
Wellness programs within recruitment and hiring are nothing new. They’ve always been there. The concept might be new in terms of prioritization, but you’ve always had to show flexibility and a focus on employee wellness in the interview.
For Alorica, we make wellness a part of each point on the employee’s career journey from the interview to orientation to training to their first 90 days and beyond. Each leader within the journey (recruiters, frontline managers, trainers, etc.) is responsible for reminding employees of the wellness programs offered at each milestone. That communication is critical. It’s important to not just weave in wellness upfront then forget about it along the journey. Employees won’t remember what you offer, and most importantly, their needs can change. Someone who needs help with flexible scheduling at the beginning of their career journey may later need therapy. Or maybe someone needs help opening a bank account then later wants to attend a cooking class to learn to eat healthier. The point is, if you just tell employees of the programs offered once, they may utilize the one they need right then but later down the road when their needs change, they won’t know where to go. That’s why it’s important to keep employees engaged and reminded of wellness offerings year-round, whether they’ve been with the company 1 month or 10 years.
One of the ways we do this is through our gamified app called Connect where employees go to view training assignments, company news, take their daily pulse checks and see all the amazing wellness programs we offer and how to participate.
We’ve all heard of the four-day work week, unlimited PTO, mental health days, and on demand mental health services. What innovative new programs and pilots are you launching to address employee wellness? And, what are you discovering? We would benefit from an example in each of these areas.
Mental Wellness: Our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and the third-party wellness company we partner with both bring a variety of programs. For example, we are piloting on-demand therapy worldwide. In some countries we operate in, including the U.S., our EAP offers six sessions per incident for each employee. We also provide onsite counseling when events occur at our sites, such as the death of a coworker or a natural disaster in the local community.
Emotional Wellness: We also focus on the relationship between an employee and their direct supervisor. These managers provide mentorship and emotional support. We encourage our leadership to not just check on an employee’s performance but their overall wellbeing. I recently launched a global program where I held panel discussions on the topic of servant leadership and taught our managers how to care for the whole employee including emotional wellness.
Our Employee Experience (HR) team is also highly engaged with employees and continues to build that culture where employees can lean on each other in times of need. This includes the abovementioned Real Talk sessions where employees discuss topics that are weighing on them emotionally and get support. We are seen as a safe place for employees, and this comes from our commitment to transparency. We acknowledge the political landscape and offer resources for those troubled by current events. In Real Talk sessions, employees discuss sensitive matters such as racism, stereotypes, sexual orientation and more. Just by being able to discuss these things in a place where this is typically considered taboo, the employees are building their emotional wellness.
One of our greatest sources of pride at Alorica is our partnership with non-profit Making Lives Better with Alorica (MLBA). MLBA provides financial assistance to Alorica employees and their communities for medical bills, rent and utilities, funeral expenses, crisis relief and more. Through this program, employees see that we truly care about their emotional wellness and will do anything to help them succeed. Learn more about our accomplishments through MLBA in our 2021 Impact Report.
Social Wellness: Part of social wellness is about building connections with coworkers. That’s what we do during our Real Talk sessions. Even those on opposing sides of topics or issues come together to learn from each other. Also, we recently piloted Connection Clubs — Alorica’s affinity groups as part of our TIDE program. These small groups share a common interest/cause/identity, such as working parents, LGBT+, or even a love of cooking, creating a bond beyond work.
We also build connection through awareness holidays such as Pride Month, Women’s History Month, Black History Month, AAPI Heritage Month, etc. and even through light celebrations, such as World Ice Cream Day or International Pet Day. Celebrating these topics is not just fun but brings diverse cultures together.
We regularly host contests where employees submit pictures of their home gardens, their favorite vacations, their family, what they’re grateful for and more. We then share these photos globally to make our big world just a little bit smaller.
As part of MLBA, sites hold fundraising activities like school supply drives, cleaning up local parks, painting rooms in foster group homes or even our most recent “vote for which leader you want to see participate in the ice bucket challenge” initiative that took place in Joplin, Missouri. Coming together for a good cause builds these connections further between coworkers and improves social wellness.
Physical Wellness: We send global tips monthly about ways you can care for your body including planting your own vegetable garden, taking a walk between calls and even doing desk-ercise.
Our team in the Philippines led a Zumba class and recorded it to share worldwide. At our site in Puebla, Mexico, the team holds yoga classes to balance the body and mind. Our site in Panama has its own soccer team. Many sites have gyms and meditation rooms available as well.
We are launching a global wellness calendar soon that will offer cooking classes, exercise classes, support for eating healthy and more.
Financial Wellness: We partner with financial institutions around the globe that hold classes to learn how to invest, how to open a bank account, how to take out loans and more. We also have a partnership with PayActiv where employees can choose to be paid weekly or even daily. Our Philippines team hosts its own financial wellness seminars frequently, and we plan on holding even more globally through our global wellness calendar.
In Bluefield, West Virginia, we partner with Intuit to provide a savings program through SaverLife where employees develop financial planning skills to build a $500 nest egg of savings with assistance from a company match. Currently, we have all 183 onsite employees participating in the program.
Our financial assistance through MLBA also improves our employees’ financial wellness by alleviating the stress of past due bills and unforeseen circumstances.
Can you please tell us more about a couple of specific ways workplaces would benefit from investing in your ideas above to improve employee wellness?
- Retention: Like I said earlier, happy employees stay with their companies longer.
- eNPS: By investing in your employees’ wellness, you increase employee satisfaction.
- Referrals: Happy employees invite their friends and family to come work at the company that is taking such great care of them.
- Productivity: An employee who feels drained works slower and with less efficiency. When their well-being is taken care of, they can better focus on their job.
- Performance: Similar to the above, happy employees are more encouraged to perform at their best.
- Communication and Trust: This outcome is most important to us at Alorica. When employees know that you care about them, they feel more open to come to you to work through problems instead of just leaving the company or suffering in silence.
- Client Satisfaction and Testimonials: When employees are happy, they are better equipped to serve customers, resulting in happy clients.
How are you reskilling leaders in your organization to support a “Work Well” culture?
In the first half of the year, we enrolled over 10,000 learners in Alorica Academy, our global training and leadership development program. These classes are for frontline leaders, such as team managers and operations managers, and are built on our Global Learning team’s commitment to put our people at the center of the circle.
We have programs at each stage of the employee life cycle; our Step-Up programs prepare high potential employees for the next stage in their career; first time leaders and those advancing to higher level roles go through our New to Position Training which focuses on the transition to a leadership role and emphasizes the importance of key behaviors such as empathy, self and social awareness in all their interactions; our Foundations Series is all about reinforcing these behaviors, consistency and overall, how to be a good human being. That is what our culture at Alorica is all about.
All these programs focus on leading by example. Leaders who put wellness at the forefront create future leaders who do the same. And this goes for a first-level manager all the way to our C-Suite. Each leader is taught and encouraged to put their direct reports’ well-being at the center, building our culture of wellness.
Ideas take time to implement. What is one small step every individual, team or organization can take to get started on these ideas — to get well?
It all starts at the top — and senior leaders have to work together to turn these ideas into reality. It needs to be something everyone not only believes in but lives out every day. Of course, culture develops organically as well at every level but if you don’t make wellness a priority at the top, it won’t reach the whole globe as effectively. So, what I do is take it to the top and put it on the agenda every chance I get!
What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Workplace Wellness?”
Through our partnership with a third-party wellness company, we’ve discovered the top 5 trends our employees care about most and we tracked what our employees had to say about them:
- “I was feeling stressed, a lot of anxiety and back/neck pain. I am feeling more relaxed after meditation.”
- “I feel great and more focused after meditation group.”
- “I love meditation group I hope to keep it.”
- “Mindful meditation really helped me. I didn’t even know I was clenching my teeth during stressful situations.”
- Virtual Mental Health:
- “My one-on-one therapy has been a Godsend for getting through my personal life.”
- “The therapy is a great service and I think everyone should seek out an individual session at least once even if it’s something they feel is personal. My past individual sessions were all wonderful and did help me recognize behaviors in myself and others.”
- “I’ve been able to release stress or emotions built up from my shift during my therapy sessions.”
- “Being able to get therapy while going through stuff personally has helped so I can perform my work better.”
- Stress Management/Resilience
- “In every case of my experiencing negative emotions from extreme content while moderating I have been able to have those negative emotions/stress completely erased. Having access to an educated expert has been immensely more helpful for me than simply talking to a friend, laymen like family and friends that aren’t educated in this field just do not provide the same level of help.”
- “I really enjoy the variety of things to take our minds off work and learning how to deal with the stress of our job is important too.”
- “Learning to meditate and relax when stressed or overwhelmed is great.”
- Financial Health
- “We go over multiple subjects even personal subjects to help with schedules and finances all of my sessions are informative and very much appreciated.”
- “I’ve learned new ways to eat healthy, and ways to save money”
- Weight Loss (nutrition/physical health)
- “My client has lost 22 pounds in 5 months! We weren’t working on losing weight, just increasing physical activity and stress management. They went to the doctor recently and learned about their weight loss.”
- “I had a client that lost 15 pounds in the past few weeks; working on their relationship with food.”
- Wellness Coach reported, “I had a client lose 3 pounds in one week after our first visit after the scale not moving for her since January. She just upped her protein intake (vegan) and started drinking more water.”
- “A client of mine was able to lose 5lbs in the past 2 weeks by decreasing fast food and including more fruits and vegetables.”
- Wellness Coach reported: “Client used to only eat one huge meal a day and would snack on Hot Cheetos throughout the day going through a “huge bag every 2 days or so”. She was “tired all the time and had no energy and always felt bloated after meals”, 6 weeks later she is having 3 meals a day every workday, eating fruits and high protein snacks instead of chips, drinking more water, AND she has hunger cues again! Reports she has higher energy that lasts all day, is able to work out 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week, shirts and pants are fitting her better and doesn’t feel as bloated! We also talked a lot about “non-scale wins” to avoid being discouraged by numbers and she shared this today: “even if I don’t hit my exact weight loss goal in 3 months, I will still feel so accomplished and proud of my progress and I know as long as I stick with what I’ve been doing I will see results”
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of workplace wellness?
Humanity. It’s all about the people. And it’s our people who teach us every day what’s the best way to support them. The more I listen to our people, the more hopeful and excited I become.
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Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and wellness.
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